Help making a career shift from marketing to data analyst
August 27, 2017 10:12 PM   Subscribe

Hi everyone, I currently work in Facebook marketing, and I'd like to move into data analysis so that I can begin developing the skills and knowledge one needs for full-fledged data science. I graduated with a BA in Psychology, so as of now, I unfortunately have little in the way of mathematical or programming experience.

Here's what I do have:

- One uni class on making basic games/programs in Java
- One class on using STATA to perform some relatively straightforward regressions and visualizations on large datasets
- Intro statistics (linear regression, chi squared, z- and t-tests, that kind of thing)
- Intro calculus (2 of the 3 classes that CS majors would typically take in their freshman year)
- A conceptual understanding of several ML concepts (thanks to a cognitive science class)

Before anyone asks if I'm really sure I want to learn this--some have expressed doubt in other forums--I have a deep interest in understanding how to implement DS/ML techniques. One can't put interest on a resume, of course, but I genuinely get chills when I read about the applications of DS & ML to social good-oriented purposes, and it is a skillset I'm absolutely certain about learning.

Given my somewhat unconventional background, what do you think is the most efficient path from where I am now to a data analyst role? There's plenty of advice out there on what one "needs" to know to become a data scientist, but as an outsider, I'm having trouble discerning what carries the most weight in interviews for entry-level data analyst roles. Your input would be very much appreciated.
posted by blissfulchar to Work & Money (6 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a draft textbook I've been meaning to work my way through: Foundations of Data Science . You'll need linear algebra, also, which I don't see on your list.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:47 PM on August 27, 2017

I recently looked into online certification programs in Data Analytics. There are many! I ended up signing onto Ohio State University's program because it is mentored very, very well. I get immediate answers on lectures and homework from OSU professors teaching the course. This is compared to several other online certifications that have 0 mentoring, no one to talk to , but only the coursework, online resources and tests. OSU stands behind this program for their reputation just as one would expect an actual university to do. Other programs seem to provide the certificates without really giving you a good idea of your qualifications when you're finished--they may not be worth much. I also looked into Cornell's online program but they aren't nearly as ready to do this certification program as OSU is insomuch as providing good course descriptions and tools that will be used. I got in touch with the director of the program at Cornell and she didn't provide specific answers but she did say that they aren't using R but only Excel -- I wanted to use R. The Statistics course uses very introductory R so you needn't know it well when you start. I took free beginner R at the site OSU recommended. The OSU cost may be a consideration at $675 /course, four courses to finish. The courses are about 2 months each. I recommend you attend the webmeeting that discusses the course life with the program director.
posted by waving at 8:41 AM on August 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

For obtaining data analytics experience I would put together a portfolio whereby you have gone from data to nice graphical readouts. I have a lot of data analysis experience using statistical packages like Minitab and Excel so I am going to take some old projects I had and reanalyze them, make nicer graphics and such with the tools I learn in certification program. I have a PhD in immunology FWIW, so I do have experience in making sense of a lot of data, just not the current analytical tool skills. Your background sounds like you could emphasize your analytical experience.
posted by waving at 9:01 AM on August 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks to both of you for the supportive answers!

qxntpqbbbqxl: You're right, unfortunately I don't have experience in linear algebra. However, since it isn't really needed for entry level data analysis, it's on the back burner for me at the moment. Thank you for this textbook link, I'll definitely save this and start studying it once I've landed my first role.

waving: This looks to be a solid program, I'll look into it! My primary concern at the moment is, like you said, whether the teaching/learning materials I use can guide me through creating a robust analysis and visualization portfolio - does the program provide a good amount of support toward that end? Also, I saw no mention of Python in the program - are you planning on learning that on your own?
posted by blissfulchar at 9:05 AM on August 29, 2017

blissfulchar, I can't answer the question as to whether or not the program supports building a portfolio. I don't see why you couldn't start building one with the course projects. I believe the contact for the course would totally answer what help they could provide--I need to check into that myself. I am in the first course, Stats, now and although much of it is very basic review I find it going at a pretty intense, but not unmanageable, pace. I am new to R so much of my time is learning to code and memorizing commands, so YMMV. i haven't seen evidence of needing Python but I want to learn it once I have a handle on this certification. I really like the DataCamp site. You can do some of the courses for free--I started my R training there. I'll look to that to get started with Python later. DataCamp is on my FB feed and they have some very interesting courses specific to various topics, like financial analysis.
posted by waving at 5:40 AM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

This post has some useful strategic & emotional advice for moving into data from a background like yours.
posted by space_lab at 9:23 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

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